AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice will meet in court for the first time on Dec. 7 at a pre-trial hearing in the DOJ’s lawsuit against the company over its pending Time Warner merger, a federal judge said this afternoon.
Judge Richard Leon is overseeing the case. He revealed the hearing date as part of an order.
The two sides have clashed this week over when the case should be heard. Given it has an $85 billion bun in the oven, AT&T is clamoring for the earliest date possible. The government, on the other hand, argues that a more rational process unhurried by the pressure of Wall Street is appropriate.
In a motion, AT&T argued the trial should begin Feb. 20, which would allow it to end on or about March 5. The DOJ countered that May 7 seemed best. Whatever date they land on, a large cross-section of Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington will be tuning in, especially given the many other M&A maneuvers pegged to the outcome.
AT&T shares, which have slumped in recent weeks as the company’s year-long quest to plug a massive content engine into its formidable distribution infrastructure, jumped 3% today to close at $36.48. Time Warner tacked on $1.30 to finish at $90.92, well south of the level it was at a year ago when the deal was first announced.